An unused parking ramp in downtown Duluth took one step closer to meeting its fate (or date) with the wrecking ball.  The Duluth Economic Development Authority has officially declared the former Shoppers Auto Park ramp on Second Avenue West "structurally substandard".  The resolution clears the path for demolition and future development on the centrally-located site on downtown Duluth.

But any further action won't come easily or cheap.

DEDA's resolution came with a statement sharing that they had "determined that the structure should be demolished and removed from the property and the property should be redeveloped for the benefit of the city's downtown district.  According to an article in the Duluth News Tribune, the first part of the plans would come with an expensive price tag.

Chris Fleege, Director of Duluth's Planning and Economic Development Division "told commissioners the cost could range from $500,000 to $1 million"; and that's just for the demo work - not the cost of any future development on the site.

Steve Tanko

There could potentially be some help along the way, though from tax-increment financing:

"Tax-increment financing is a form of business subsidy that captures new property taxes generated by a project and used them to pay for certain qualified development costs for a defined period of time, before the tax revenues begin to flow in full to local government units, such as the city, county, and school district."

There are other problems holding back demolition, too besides the price tag. Officials with the city have shared that the property parcel and the parking ramp is "complicated and involves a trust".  Fleege elaborated that "[u]ltimately, we'll have to get clear title on the building and then also be able to have a development plan.  But this really creates the foundational step to allow that to happen".

In addition to the clear title and ownership situation, creation of a tax-increment financing district in advance of the redevelopment is a unique situation.  Duluth Assistant City Attorney Bob Asleson shared:

"The issue is: In order to include the structure as a substandard structure for the purpose of creating a redevelopment district, the building either has to be up when you create the district, which we're not ready to do; or else it has to be precertified.....as substandard.  So it can be later counted for the purposes of determining whether or not the property would qualify for a redevelopment district."

That precertification is what is on the Duluth Economic Development Authority's agenda.

Steve Tanko

Whatever gets decided and whatever ends up happening with the site in the future, city leaders agree that waiting is not an issue.  The ramp has been closed for a number of years; it was condemned at some point about a year and a half ago. Over the last few years, the structure has become dilapidated.

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